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Potter beams as Cucurella makes his Marc on night to remember
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Robert O'Connor
Press Association
Marc Cucurella shone as Chelsea knocked Borussia Dortmund out of the Champions League
Marc Cucurella shone as Chelsea knocked Borussia Dortmund out of the Champions League

Graham Potter praised Marc Cucurella after the decision to restore him to Chelsea's defence was vindicated by a brilliant individual display against Borussia Dortmund. 

The Blues reversed a 1-0 deficit from the first leg in Germany to seal a stunning Champions League fightback and hand Potter his finest night as manager at Stamford Bridge. 

Cucurella had been left out of the manager's last three matchday squads but was brought in to start in a back three with Thiago Silva injured and Benoit Badiashile not part of the Champions League squad.  

Goals either side of half-time from Raheem Sterling and a retaken penalty from Kai Havertz won it for the Blues, after they had bombarded the Bundesliga’s second-place side during a first half in which they dominated and could have been out of sight. 

It was a performance that finally demonstrated the potential in the team following owner Todd Boehly’s whirlwind January transfer spend, with Joao Felix imperious in driving down the left side of Chelsea’s attack and British-record signing Enzo Fernandez in near-total control in midfield.

But it was Cucurella, whose inclusion after a difficult personal spell Potter admitted had been a risk, who rose best to the occasion with an energetic, focused display of high pressing. 

Reflecting on Cucurella's Player of the Match performance, the Chelsea boss said: "I'm delighted for Marc. When you're having a bad time like we've had, you accept the criticism and Marc has dealt with it well. 

"We've tried to shield him a little bit and at the same time pick the moment [to bring him back]. 

Marc Cucurella was rewarded with the Player of the Match award last night
Marc Cucurella was rewarded with the Player of the Match award last night

"With Benoit not available, I thought he gave us some left-footed balance in the back three. Thankfully he delivered a top performance."

Chelsea peppered Dortmund's goal in the first period with Felix and Havertz both going close, the latter striking the post with a wicked drive late in the half. 

Sterling's goal in the 43rd minute repaid the raucous support lent by the crowd at Stamford Bridge before Havertz's twice-taken penalty completed the turnaround, hitting the post first time but taking his second chance after Dortmund's players encroached. 

It brought much-needed breathing room for Potter, particularly following on from the unconvincing 1-0 victory against Leeds on Saturday that ended the team's six-match winless run. 

This time, the performance matched the magnitude of the result. 

Potter added: "It was an important game, it was a special atmosphere. 

"It was a passionate evening. Stamford Bridge was rocking, I thought it would be. Our performance helped that. 

"We pressed high, we tried to win some tackles. We tried to attack them and play some decent stuff against a top team. 

"It's not just this evening. We've had a tough period. We had to respond against Leeds. 

"We played a good game against Dortmund away and we lost. In the moment that we’re in, no one wants to hear that we played well, had some chances and should have scored. 

"We had a poor first half against Southampton and it could have spiralled into an unpleasant situation. Everybody had to stick together and suffer together and find a way through."

Dortmund boss Edin Terzic felt the penalty awarded by VAR for a handball against Marius Wolf was the call that ultimately turned the direction of the tie against his side. 

He said: "If a decision takes five or six minutes to make you know it's not been an easy call. 

"I'm the manager, I'm responsible for performances. But not for the performance of the referee. 

"In both legs it was very tight games. Inches decide whether you're going to go to the next round. 

"We've been unlucky in moments but this is part of the game. We knew we'd have to show two top performances. 

"Both teams deserved to go through but Chelsea scored twice, we didn't, so we can’t complain about being out."



ChelseaMarc CucurellaChampions League
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